The Ice Storm

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It happened so slowly it was fast.

One minute I was slogging my way back Thursday from a Boston area consult, the next I was chipping a half inch of ice off friend’s car after dinner. A few hours later and the ice storm had sent me back to the nineteenth century; no running water, no heat, and – the horror – no internet. That’s what happens here when you don’t have power. From about three or four in the morning Friday until just before three today.

In that span, one thing didn’t happen – shaving – while a couple of things did. I bought thirty dollars worth of candles, sixteen of water, and six hundred of Husky generator.

Oh, and funny story: my car was trapped in the garage until I slipped the lock with a credit card. I’d make a good thief, I think.

Yesterday compelled the generator purchase. While Friday was cold, Saturday saw the evening temperatures descend into the single digits. While the cottage here is recent construction and thus well insulated, it’s hard to retain heat that you don’t have in the first place. So while I was #129 on the list for a generator at Home Depot, I called yesterday evening anyway because it was cold as the grave inside. And good news was had: they’d received 240 in, so if I could make my way down to Topsham to pick it up, power was mine to have. For the aforementioned $600, of course.

Luckily, I didn’t discover until looking at the box today that the thing weighed 152 pounds, which explained belatedly why my back hurt this morning and why it was so hard to wrestle into and out of the car, and down to its resting place a safe distance from the cottage. True, I could have attached the included wheels to get it to the latter, but as the temperature had the bolts and washers uncomfortably tacky and sticking to my ungloved hand, I opted instead for the brute force approach and just lugged the damned thing.

Lacking the electrical expertise necessary to wire the unit into our circuit breaker without electrocuting myself, I did the next best thing and ran an extension cord in the door – cleverly guarding against drafts from the crack in the door with duct tape – and plugged in our propane heater. By around ten last night, the cottage had gone from about 38 degrees to 74, which I thought would be enough to get me through the night and thus I killed the genny an hour or two later. Both to preserve gas and to get some sleep: it’s that loud.

The complicating factor in all of this, as my friends are well aware, was Az. Years ago, a disastrous camping episode that left me huddled in the fortunately heated public bathrooms at the Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado inspired me to secure a real cold weather sleeping bag, so freezing to death was unlikely whatever the temperature. The bag wasn’t even necessary, actually, since two down comforters proved equal to the task on their own. But Az, as a cat, is not terribly clever about how to keep herself warm without me there to lie on, which meant that – without heat – I was more or less tied to the place if only to serve as a source of warmth for her.

Apart from all of that, along with the scrambling to secure power, jury rig lighting, and the trips into Bath to shower at the YMCA, it was a pretty uneventful weekend spent under covers reading by candlelight.

Which sounds neat. And probably is when it’s optional.

But I’m extremely mindful of just how fortunate I am. My worst case scenario – as is nearly always the case – just wasn’t that bad. Az and I spent Friday night at the house of a good friend who threw a kick ass holiday party, and that option was available to me on Saturday as well, should it had proven necessary. Absent that, as well, I could have departed for Boston to stay with family, friends, or even a hotel.

In the end, of course, I decided it best to pony up the cash for a generator, which is something else to be thankful for: I have that ability. Many of the families here do not, and some spent the night in shelters across the state.

This storm affected a million people in the New England region, and as of this morning nearly 100,000 households here in Maine – populated by an undetermined number of people – were still without power. Hopefully many if not most of those are like me, and got their lights back on today. Better, the weather is going to give those who aren’t so lucky a break: it’s supposed to approach 50 tomorrow, so heat at least should not be a major concern.

My thanks to the power crews from Maine, obviously, but also those that have come from as far as Michigan, South Carolina, and Nova Scotia. Being without power – whatever the weather – is not fun, and those guys worked long shifts in freezing weather to ensure that everyone was safe and got their power back as quickly as possible.

Anyway, with the power back on, and the detritus of a weekend spent without heat, light and running water mostly (I haven’t touched the fridge yet) cleared, I should be back on my feet this week.

But if there’s something you’re waiting on, you might want to ping me, because I’m a bit behind.


  1. […] Maine Blogs My thanks to the power crews from Maine, obviously, but also those that have come from as far as Michigan, South Carolina, and Nova Scotia. Being without power – whatever the weather – is not fun, and those guys worked long shifts in … […]

  2. Glad to hear you made it through safely.

  3. When the power first goes out you have about 20 min of realizations about how much you rely on power. You open the frig and no light goes on and the cold comes out. You flick switches out of habit. You discover that cordless phones are only as good as the outlet the base station is plugged into. It’s like when you injure yourself and suddenly realize how important your big toe is.

    I like electricity. But I don’t like being reliant on “the man” for it to show up at my house.

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